The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today announced some targeted changes in the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) operated by his Department. The changes, which were agreed by the Government, followed a review of the operation of the STEP and are intended to refine the programme and improve its appeal to potential migrant entrepreneurs.

To date a total of 20 applications have been approved under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme with a projected investment of over €6 million and potential employment creation of over 220 jobs. There are, however, indications of further opportunities to attract entrepreneurs and further enhance Ireland’s excellent reputation as a business and investment location.

Speaking today, Minister Shatter said "When we launched the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme in April 2012, I deliberately avoided making any predictions on the level of interest in scheme. This is new territory for Ireland and it was not possible to predict the level of demand at that time. The approach was to allow the Programme to operate for a reasonable time and to review it to establish whether improvements could be made. This has now been done and while the level of interest so far has been encouraging, I believe that we can do more in this area to attract entrepreneurs to Ireland and to offer those people already here a real option to stay on as entrepreneurs. With this important objective in mind, the Cabinet has agreed to my proposal that a number of adjustments be made to the programme".

The main changes, which will take effect from 15 March, are:


The Minister concluded "Ireland is an excellent country for entrepreneurs and has many advantages in terms of quality of life for dynamic and innovative people and their families. We want to welcome them to Ireland to avail of the considerable benefits we have to offer their businesses. Today’s announcement is another initiative in support of the Governments ambition for Ireland to be among the most entrepreneurial nations in the world and acknowledged as a world class environment in which to start and grow a business. With the unemployment challenge that Ireland is currently facing, growing the number of entrepreneurs and start ups is hugely important for Ireland’s economic development".

13 March 2014



Note for Editors

Features of the STEP

The STEP facilitates residence in Ireland for foreign national entrepreneurs who have a viable proposal for a High Potential Start-up (HPSU) Company. STEP applies the definition of a HPSU as used by Enterprise Ireland, which classifies a HPSU as a start up venture that is -

Candidates for the STEP are required to demonstrate that they have access to €75,000 in funding to support the establishment of their business in Ireland. This funding could be from the applicant’s own resources or earnings or could be in the form of a bank loan, venture capital funding etc.

Operation of STEP to date

Since STEP has commenced in April 2012 there have been 35 applications to the STEP.

When STEP was established, no predictions were made as to levels of participation. A person making a decision to establish a HPSU in Ireland will not base their decision solely on the immigration permission that is available to them. Several other important factors such as the availability of appropriate finance, proximity to potential markets and the general business environment will be influential on the decisions of entrepreneurs.

Review of the STEP

The conclusions of the review and the recommendations approved by Government are as follows: -

1. The target group for the STEP should remain unchanged and the programme should continue to facilitate High Potential Start-Ups.

2. The required minimum investment will be reduced from €75,000 to €50,000. Where more than one principal is involved in establishing the business the minimum investment for second and subsequent entrepreneur will be €30,000 per principal.

3. A 12 month immigration permission will be made available for foreign national entrepreneurs attending incubators or innovation bootcamps in Ireland. The 12 month permission will allow these entrepreneurs to prepare an application to the STEP and thus provide an identifiable route for migrant entrepreneurs to move from the start-up to realisation phase of their projects. This 12 month period will also be made available to non-EEA students who graduate with advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees in Ireland and who wish to work on preparing an application for the STEP.

4. Unsuccessful applications for the STEP will be referred to the Business Permission Scheme, operated by INIS, for assessment. The terms of the Business Permission Scheme are being reviewed to better facilitate entrepreneurship at the more traditional end of the scale.

5. More emphasis will be placed on the marketing and promotion of the scheme and on aligning the STEP with Ireland’s strategy to be among the most entrepreneurial nations in the world and acknowledged as a world class environment in which to start and grow a business.